2004 and 2006 World Monuments Watch
Located near the West Bank town of Nablus, Tell Balatah has long been associated with the ancient city of Shechem, mentioned throughout the Bible and in numerous Egyptian documents. An influential commercial center, the city prospered from trade in locally produced grapes, olives, wheat, and livestock from the Middle Bronze Age to the Late Hellenistic Period (ca. 1900–100 b.c.). Among the city’s visible remains are a series of defensive walls and gates, a palace or governor’s house, a residential quarter, as well as a fortified Canaanite temple and a portion of a temple to Zeus commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the second century a.d. In addition to continued political unrest in the West Bank, the site suffers from a lack of maintenance as well as vandalism and encroachment of agricultural fields and urban development, while heavy rains have taken their toll on the site’s mudbrick architecture.
Since the Watch
In 2002 the World Heritage Committee launched an effort for the protection of Palestine's cultural heritage. The effort included the compilation of an Inventory of Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites of Potential Outstanding Universal Value in Palestine, which included Tell Balatah. In 2009 UNESCO renewed its commitment to this effort, resulting in several conservation projects. A four-year effort at Tell Balatah took place until 2014 as a partnership between the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, UNESCO, Leiden University, and the local community in Nablus, with funding from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This work included extensive research, excavations, publications, emergency conservation measures, production of a documentary film and of informative signage, construction of a visitor facility including an interpretation hall, and the creation of a site museum. A site management plan was also devised. The main purpose of the project was to safeguard the site from further deterioration, make it accessible to the public, and create a tool for socio-economic development in Nablus. January 2015